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Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve devoted a post every Tuesday on our Stick a Fork In It food blogto reviewing a gourmet food truck. The premise is simple: They come to our offices, I review them. Some have excelled; others are a waste of wheels. The overall experience still hasn’t convinced me that this is more than a trend à la Pinkberry and cupcakes (a cupcake truck visits us this Tuesday at noon—come by!), but maybe that’s because we need a few more Piaggio Gourmet On Wheels roaming our streets.
Follow their latest stop at piaggioonwheels.com
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Region: Laguna Beach
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Unlike some of the other entrants in the luxe-lonchera war, this Argentine truck has an impeccable pedigree: Owner/cook Jose Piaggio was the proprietor of a couple of steakhouses in Brea and Brazil before making his restaurant mobile. Expert meat-preparing is in the man’s veins, and Piaggio Gourmet On Wheels is a mini-testament to his country’s obsession with beef: freshly made chorizo with a gentle snap, redolent of cinnamon; skirt steak grilled to an obsidian gleam on the outside, ruddy beauty inside, all enlivened with a chimichurri heavier on the parsley than garlic; a lomito torta that makes any American steak hoagie seem as hefty as tissue. Piaggio plays around with those cuts in tacos, burritos, quesadillas—any vessel he can get his meaty (pardon the pun; Piaggio is an Andes of a man) hands on.
But as delicious as the beef entrées taste, what spurs necessary metaphors and similes is the chicken milanesa. It’s not just a chicken cutlet pounded to the thickness of a pinkie, breaded, then lightly fried; it’s also culinary folk art, as large as an outstretched hand, crunchy and succulent, the best milanesa not served inside a taco acorazado. I order the milanesa sandwich so often here that Piaggio’s kind wife doesn’t even bother asking for my order anymore. And my obsession is warranted—if more hipsters order it, Piaggio’s chicken milanesa just might become the next bacon-wrapped hot dog (also on the menu, to guarantee a Mexican crowd).
Amazingly, Piaggio’s specialty isn’t even meat. The website mentions that Jose’s signature dish is the empanada, and he doesn’t disappoint. A caprese version features all the attributes of the salad: refreshing basil, juicy tomatoes, luscious cheese, all keeping their flavors in the sauna that is the inside of a freshly made empanada. The chicken empanada mixes the bird with olives and other spices. Piaggio has only had a couple of months in the truck, so expect more empanadas and meals to get onto the menu—and expect him to make luxe-loncheras a staple of county dining, not a fad.
Oh, and for dessert? Massive alfajores. ¡Sabrosos!
Piaggio Gourmet On Wheels can be found via piaggioonwheels.com.
This column appeared in print as "Gaucho Grille."
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